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Habana Labs Brings People to the Power

by Worldchanging New York local blogger, Ben Jervey

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While politicians, academics, and "experts" all debate the future of energy, a local collective is busy engaging the public -- slighted "consumers" so often swept aside from the conversation -- directly in the issue. Habana Labs, part of the non-profit Habana Works offshoot of the Cafe Habana family, and housed generously in the Brooklyn studios of the engineering and design firm Glide-Inc, has been hosting a series of Winter Workshops to connect New Yorkers immediately and practically to sustainable energy in action.

The monthly workshops gave folks the opportunity to really experience energy hands-on, while brainstorming new energy solutions. During the first two sessions, participants designed and constructed vertical axis wind turbines--eventually bringing them up to the Lab's Dumbo rooftop for a test run. RPMs were measured, amps recorded, and the most efficient designs noted. (One of Habana Labs broader goals is to actually design and install an experimental micro-turbine at the Habana Outpost restaurant in Fort Greene, so the workshop was more than just fun and games, and actually a sort of community-fueled research project.) Videos of the first two labs are available on their website, and they're well worth a look and learn.

The third workshop drilled down deeper, looking at the bare bones basics of electronics, and playing with motors that can turn kinetic energy into electricity. After exploring stepper motors--the ubiquitous, if never considered, engines that power printers, fax machines, and so many of our modern wired lives' necessities--and building some basic circuitry, labgoers started to get real creative. Teams measured how much electricity they could generate with their motors, and within an hour a veritible catalog of innovative energy capture systems were being toyed with. One group attached a weight to a wall-mounted wheel, dropping it and lighting an LED with the transferred energy. Another fixed a motor up to a grocery cart, creating electricity while wheeling it around the workshop.

This, to me, is what was most exciting about Habana Labs. Real people--sure plenty of self-desribed "geeks," but regular folks nonetheless--collectively brainstorming new energy solutions. And this is, in fact, what Habana Labs is all about.

Images: Courtesy of Habana Labs

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Yep, the energy is coming round again.

Back in the 1970s, when people were doing urban homesteading in the Lower East Side, there was a building there with solar and a windmill. In Cambridge, MA I scored some money from the Vingo Foundation and started the Solar Work Group which built demonstration models of different solar collectors. Those demo models eventually became part of a traveling energy show for the Clamshell Alliance and traveled throughout the Northeast.

Now there's a group starting a Sustainable Skillshares Network in the neighborhood.

Yep, looks like the energy is coming round again.

Posted by: gmoke on 18 Feb 07

This is really cool on multiple levels.

1) Community Building, and not just the internet (disconnected) kind
2) Using that community to creates something greater than then sum of the individuals. Brainstorming is wondrous!
3)Spreading knowledge, and inspiring excitement, about creating, thinking, and playing with new ideas in sustainability.

I love it
I have been looking for a workshop like this around me for quite some time.

Posted by: Kirk on 18 Feb 07



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